NORTHRIDGE, Calif. –
Brian Behrad scored in the first half, Christian Gonzalez Diaz added a goal in the second and the Cal State Northridge Matadors (8-8-3, 4-4-2 Big West) completed a season sweep of the Cal State Fullerton Titans (7-7-5, 1-6-3 Big West) with a 2-1 win at Titan Stadium on Saturday night.
The victory gives the Matadors 14 points in the conference standings and a fifth place finish at the end of the Big West season. The Titans finished seventh in the conference with six points.
On Senior Night for the Titans, the Matadors came out the aggressor, dictating the pace of play for much of the first half. Northridge controlled possession of the ball and only allowed five shots in the first 45 minutes while taking nine. Senior goalkeeper Manabu Kaji, making his second start of the season, made two saves in his final collegiate regular season match before being lifted for Michael Abalos at halftime.
Sophomore forward Brian Behrad opened up the scoring in the 40th minute of play after receiving a long pass forward following a Titan attack. In an attempt to clear the ball from a crowded box, Carlos Benavides passed the ball to Chris Smith, whose long clearance went over everyone and dropped behind the Fullerton back line.
Behrad was able to outrun his defender and slotted the ball into the right side of the goal after going one-on-one against Titan goalkeeper Trevor Whiddon. The goal was the fourth of the season for Behrad and Smith and Benavides were each credited with an assist.
Going into the halftime whistle, the Matadors led in shots and corner kicks (3-1). The teams combined for 17 fouls with Fullerton holding the edge 9-8.
The Titans charged out of the gates to start the second half and nearly had a goal after one minute as a shot from the left side was saved by Abalos. The rebound was collected by a Titan player and his shot appeared to be heading into the right side of the net, but two Northridge defenders were at the goal line to clear it away for a team save.
The match became one of possession over the next 20 minutes with both sides committing fouls and trying to find space in the attacking area to put shots on goal. Then, in the 71st minute, the Matadors doubled their lead after freshman Christian Gonzalez Diaz cleaned up a rebound for his fourth goal this season.
Midfielder Alberto Rosas fired a shot from the right side of the box that was mishandled by Whiddon and Gonzalez Diaz was there at the back post to put home the loose ball to give Northridge a 2-0 lead at the time. Rosas picked up his first assist of the year on the play.
The Titans were able to get a goal back in the final minute of play when Kevin Venegas sent a shot from the left side that got past Abalos. Lucas Clardy slid in from the right side at the back post to put the ball in the net for his first goal of the year but it was a case of too little too late as the Matadors held on for the victory.
Kaji (2-0) was credited with the win and made two saves in the match while Abalos added four to his season tally. Whiddon made four saves and allowed two goals in defeat. Overall, Northridge finished with more shots (16-13), corner kicks (6-3) and saves (7-4).
The win wraps up a regular season for Northridge that saw the program improve on a 3-14-2 campaign a year ago.